The discourse concerning racism goes beyond a dictionary definition. The dictionary definition overly condenses it into a lace of words that brushes the surface of the deeply complicated subject that in truth, splits into many branches and discussions. In lieu of diving into a very general discussion about racism, I want to talk about racism and Black behavior, which addresses the perceptions of Black lives. We must keep in mind that racism is based on a system of power that has control and command over a social and behavioral standard. But I am sure you’ve heard this whole yada-yada race and power thing several times. It will make more sense in a moment.
A person does not need to be evil to be racist. Racism often manifests from unawareness and blindness to a system that oppresses others, but may privilege you. Most are unaware of the racist ideologies that they own because they have been often non-aggressively submerged into these ideologies. White hegemony dictates a cultural standard, which demonizes behaviors from “others.”
Think about why there’s an immediate threat for a Black child to play with toy weapons, but there is no threat for a white child to carry a hunting gun. White children are privileged with safety and are perceived more innocent than Black children. White children are allowed to run around shouting BANG!-BANG! with toy guns. There are little boys and girls running around with toy knives, swords, bombs, machetes, shurikens (throwing stars), machine guns, and batons -- most of which look ridiculously real, but that realness and level of threat is determined on the color of the hands which holds them. There is no room to perceive Black children as children because they have already been preconceived as walking threats, with the absence any innocence or humanity.
Black behavior is constantly under a social microscope. Black lives carry a threat for merely existing. The way that Black people walk, talk, dance, entertain is perceived as primitive, criminal, and “thuggish.” These perceptions do not exist because they are true, but because it goes against an established “normalcy.” This all comes back to the notion of “othering.” Because white hegemony dictates the social and cultural standard, any behaviors that threaten or violate that standard, is perceived as “dirty,” or “savage.”
White hegemony is threatened when the “others” come together to discuss racism. Dialogue, awareness, and action may slowly dismantle racism; although, it will not be an easy, nor speedy feat. Instead of being quick to defend a system of oppression and the privilege you may gain from it, indulge in listening to the dialogues of the “others," those who may have been a victim of that very system that dehumanizes, vilifies, and oppresses them. This goes beyond white feelings and comfort, but the realization that Black people are indeed human. Black lives matter. Black behavior is not wrong and Black existence is not wrong. What is wrong is a cultural standard that believes that even the mere existence of Blackness is wrong, which justifies the violence, murders, and discrimination against Black people.